How to Scale Engineering Teams, Not Slow Down & Still Have an Amazing Product – Part 1

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

It’s no secret I love what I do – working with some of the biggest companies in the world, helping them discover and deliver products that go on to be used by millions. And if that wasn’t enough, the projects themselves, the challenges our partners face are just as unique and diverse as the incredible Connectors they collaborate with to solve them. 

Needless to say, no two days (or even conversations) are usually the same. That is, until recently… 

A big part of my job is meeting with product delivery leaders at high-growth companies to discuss their unique challenges and, more importantly, how we might be able to solve them. But as of late, it seems regardless of the vertical, industry, or even the product, the challenge they’re all facing is primarily the same.

Let me know if any of this sounds familiar:

You’re a VP/Head of Engineering, and you’ve got an amazing product, and you want to grow and build on/evolve that amazing product. But you don’t have enough people or time to grow that amazing product at the speed at which you or the business expects. And you’re worried that if you cut corners, you’re no longer going to have an amazing product to make. 

What do you do?

Telling the C-Suite that you’ve got to slow things down is a conversation no delivery leader wants to have. 

The lazy answer is hiring more people – which takes us to the crux of our problem; supply and demand. 

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to liken the current supply for quality tech talent to a few grains of rice and the demand to that of a hungry football team after practice. But it’s not quite as simple as that. Yes, there is seemingly a generational gap in Digital Natives; however, that supply is being replenished as we speak. No more are there days of the computer science table being the lonely table at the career fair; rather, the amount of pure digital natives, the ones who think, learn, and understand the digital world unlike any generation before is growing. But, as the supply replenishes, it isn’t as easy as directing it to where it needs to be. This is where it gets interesting.

The power dynamic has shifted, and no longer is it an issue of having to just fill vacancies. Today, talent is empowered to be selective, particular, more discriminating to ensure that the offer fits into their lives and that the company making the offer meets the standards they’ve set for an employer. 

As consumers accelerate faster towards digital and business is making an unprecedented effort to meet them there, the result is abysmal supply and ferocious demand on historical levels. Unfortunately, we can’t clone people (at least not yet, and if we could, we probably shouldn’t anyway), leaving us with the aforementioned generational gap in the talent required for this moment in time to be the true renaissance it has the potential to be. 

But would hiring quickly, assuming you’re even able to, REALLY be the answer? It’s not without risk. 

When you increase the hiring velocity, invariably, a potential byproduct is a lower quality bar, sacrificed in the name of speed. But, of course, this also impacts company culture, which is the topic for another rant in itself. 

That leaves you still with a big problem with options quickly dwindling. 

You could use an outside firm, or “body shop,” to help you scale up production faster, trying to overcome your problem with sheer volume. But this too comes with a price (and trust me, throwing “bodies” at the problem is rarely the fix). Many high-growth companies don’t have experience working with outside vendors, which isn’t a coincidence. Inviting “outsiders” in can result in a hit to team pride and cultural morals. And I haven’t even mentioned that successfully integrating these firms with existing teams is a costly and lengthy process that impacts quality until resolved. 

And if you’re a delivery leader, shouldn’t your efforts and energy be more focused on the next 3-5 years of the actual product versus spending a sizeable amount of your time functioning as a highly paid technical recruiter? 

The answer is yes, and at the risk of sounding too audacious, this is usually why our partners, potential and present, are happy it’s us they’re having the conversation with. 

It’s without overemphasis, rather pride, that I say the teams are at Connected are driven by a single focus – building better products. In fact, this is our company’s mission statement.  And while not your official mission statement – I promise you, following it will drive more value to your business than you thought three words could. 

At Connected, you won’t find a person who isn’t passionate, near altruistic, towards that mission – the fact is, we just don’t hire them. Instead, we hire for culture add, not culture fit. The difference is that if you keep inputting the same numbers, same ingredients, same ideas and experiences into the equation, recipe, or business, you’re going to keep getting the same output. But how can you solve new challenges, or really, do anything new, if all you ever come up with is the same answer?

That is why some of the companies not only partner with us to solve their immediate challenge, they partner with us to grow. See for yourself the tenure we continue to have to this day with some of our largest partners:

  • The “largest consumer internet tech” company: partners since 2015
  • Bose: partners since 2016
  • RBC: partners since 2016
  • Ford: partners since 2018
  • VTS: partners since 2019

The above speaks not only as a testament to our approach but to the diligence we take in who we partner with. 

We literally wrote the book on product development success. It’s called the Connected Playbook, check it out here (and please message me if you want a physical copy…seriously, we have a physical version).

Taking a holistic view of the problem, we chisel away, not only revealing the core of the problem that’ll lead to the right solution, but that also chisels away and mitigates risk, honing efforts efficiently towards predictable and desirable outcomes. 

When I’m having conversations with delivery leaders, the above is usually what I tell them Connected does; highlighting the fact that we are simply the best at what we do (with the track record to prove it). However, if that is “what” we do, the follow-up is always “how” we do it? That’s why Kevin Bralten, Head of Engineering, is usually with me to share just exactly how Connected “gives product leaders superpowers,” as he likes to say, citing our work and seamless integration with the teams at the world’s largest at-home fitness company, as well as the hottest prop-tech company around (VTS).

Something he’ll share with all of you in the follow-up article. 

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